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Surrey 2021/22

Effectiveness

How effective is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks?

Last updated 15/12/2021
Requires improvement

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness requires improvement.

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service required improvement in its 2018/19 assessment.

We are encouraged to see that the service has responded well to the areas we identified in our first inspection. Overall, we have seen a positive direction of travel. However, there are still areas that need improvement.

When we inspected in 2018, we identified a cause of concern with the service’s effectiveness. It didn’t have a robust and long-term system to support its operational response model. We are pleased to see that, since then, the service has created a new integrated risk management plan (IRMP), which it has called the Making Surrey Safer Plan (MSSP).

To develop the MSSP, the service brought in third parties to scrutinise its plans and help make them stronger. The service has continued this external oversight with independent evaluation of the change process.

The service has increased the size of the prevention and protection teams. This is already leading to improvements in those areas, allowing the service to target risk more effectively.

The service needs to make sure its processes for handling information about operational risk are robust so that firefighters can be sure the information they are accessing is up to date and useful. The service has a plan in place to improve the use and communication of risk information, and has increased resources to the team responsible. It also needs to make sure that lessons from operational activities are learned by all firefighters.

Questions for Effectiveness

1

How well does the FRS understand the risk of fire and other emergencies?

Requires improvement

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at understanding risk.

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service was good in its 2018/19 assessment.

Each fire and rescue service should identify and assess all foreseeable fire and rescue‑related risks that could affect its communities. Arrangements should be put in place through the service’s prevention, protection and response capabilities to prevent or mitigate these risks for the public.

We were particularly impressed with how the service identified risk in the community and approached the development of its new IRMP, called the Making Surrey Safer Plan (MSSP). In isolation this part of understanding risk would have been judged as at least good. The judgment of requires improvement reflects the work that still needs to be done within operational risk information.

Areas for improvement

The service should ensure its firefighters have good access to relevant and up-to-date risk information.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the service’s performance in this area.

The service is good at identifying risk in the communities it serves

Since our last inspection, the service has carried out a thorough integrated risk management planning process, and has improved the way that it assesses an appropriate range of risks and threats. When assessing risk, it considers relevant information from a broad range of internal and external sources, including both data about fire incidents and about society more broadly. For example, the service uses county council data to help identify which people are most vulnerable. It also works with the local resilience forum to assess the risks from flooding and wildfires. The service has had its data externally scrutinised to make sure that the proposals set out in its IRMP are supported by the data.

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service has made progress since our last inspection in engaging with the local community to build its risk profile. It has consulted with the community and members of the voluntary sector, faith groups, and the Surrey police independent advisory group to both understand the risk and explain how the service intends to mitigate it.

The service has increased its communications team’s resources. This has improved communication with the public, which helps the service understand risks and explain how it intends to mitigate them. The consultation on its IRMP received its highest response so far.

The service has an effective integrated risk management plan

After assessing relevant risks, the service has recorded its findings in an easily understood IRMP, called the Making Surrey Safer Plan (MSSP). This plan describes how the service’s prevention, protection and response activity will be effectively resourced to mitigate the risks and threats the community faces, both now and in the future.

The service’s MSSP for 2020–24 sets out how the service will:

  • do more to prevent emergencies from happening in Surrey;
  • make sure it has the right resources in the right places at the right time to respond when needed;
  • continuously assess ways to improve effectiveness and efficiency;
  • strengthen collaboration with other organisations;
  • invest in people by ensuring they have the best training and development, and are as motivated as possible;
  • create a culture that is collaborative, inclusive and diverse to maximise understanding of communities’ needs.

The service reports quarterly to the cabinet members of Surrey County Council’s fire authority. These reports detail the service’s performance and progress against important indicators, which are aligned to the priorities in the MSSP.

The service can’t be sure that the operational risk information it holds is accurate and up to date

We were disappointed to find that, despite raising this as an area for improvement when we last inspected the service, the service still couldn’t be sure that the risk information its firefighters used was relevant and up to date. During our inspection we found that 51 percent of risk information about premises was out of date.

The service is aware of this problem and has an improvement plan that is monitored regularly. It has increased the resources of the team responsible for risk information. We were told that by the end of our inspection no high-risk premises were out of date.

Although we saw out-of-date risk information, we found that the way the service communicated the risk information that was collected was good. Staff in the control room could demonstrate that they were able to communicate information about risk. Urgent risk information is processed within 24 hours, and staff in the control room can clearly demonstrate the use of flash messages, which are used to alert staff to a temporary risk.

The service doesn’t consistently use the information that is learned during its operational activity to test its risk profile and challenge its risk management plan

We found limited evidence that the service sought out and acted on feedback from either its own operational activity or that of other services and organisations nationally. We reviewed a range of significant incidents where we would have expected the service to learn operational lessons in line with its policy. However, we were disappointed not to find any evidence that this had happened.

As a result, the service is missing the opportunity to review its risk assessments and challenge the assumptions made in the MSSP.

The service has used learning from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry to reduce risk

During this round of inspections, we sampled how each fire and rescue service had responded to the recommendations and learning from phase one of the Grenfell Tower fire inquiry.

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service has responded positively. It has established a working group with the building control team and the local authority housing department to share information and learning. The service has:

  • assessed the risk of each high-rise building in its service area;
  • carried out fire safety audits, as well as safe and well visits; and
  • collected relevant risk information about buildings identified as high risk and all high-rise buildings using cladding that is similar to the cladding installed on Grenfell Tower, and passed this on to its prevention, protection and response teams.
2

How effective is the FRS at preventing fires and other risks?

Good

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service is good at preventing fires and other risks.

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service required improvement in its 2018/19 assessment.

Fire and rescue services must promote fire safety, including giving fire safety advice. To identify people at greatest risk from fire, services should work closely with other organisations in the public and voluntary sector, as well as with the police and ambulance services. They should provide intelligence and risk information with these other organisations when they identify vulnerability or exploitation.

We are encouraged to see the improvements in the service’s prevention work since our last inspection. We previously identified areas for improvement in how the service targets prevention work at the people most at risk, and how staff identify and safeguard the most vulnerable people.

Areas for improvement

The service should evaluate its prevention work, so it understands what works.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the service’s performance in this area.

The service has linked its prevention resources to its integrated risk management plan

The service has a ‘delivery of services’ strategy for 2020–2024, which aims to align its prevention, protection and response activities. To support this strategy, the service has a prevention plan. The strategy and prevention plan are clearly linked to the risks identified in its MSSP. The prevention plan contains objectives for improving community safety, such as:

  • universal messaging, to make sure that as many people as possible can understand and respond effectively to fire, road and water safety messages;
  • involving members of the community of all ages, which is linked to lifelong learning where risk can be linked to vulnerability of individuals or others as people age; and
  • person-centred engagement, where the service will work with other organisations to help identify and target people with specific vulnerabilities.

The service works well with its teams and other relevant organisations on prevention and it passes on relevant information when needed. Information is used to adjust planning assumptions and direct activity between the service’s prevention, protection and response functions. This helps the service to manage and respond appropriately to risks that are identified – for example, where an individual is hoarding in their home, which could increase the risk to occupants and firefighters if there was a fire.

The pandemic has had an impact on, and become part of, prevention work

Between 21 September and 2 October 2020, we carried out a COVID-19 specific inspection to consider how the service adapted its prevention work. At that time, we found that it had adapted its public prevention work appropriately. Since then, we are encouraged to find that high-risk individuals are still being visited following an initial assessment, despite an overall reduction in safe and well visits due to the pandemic. At the time of our inspection there was no backlog of high-risk visits caused by the pandemic.

Since the implementation of the MSSP, the way that prevention activities are prioritised is clearer. The prevention team is now more focused on supporting those most at risk.

The service has been an integral part of the local resilience forum’s response to the pandemic. For example, it provided support for surge testing when this became necessary. Lessons from this were used to help the local resilience forum plan for future testing arrangements.

The service has improved the way it targets some high-risk groups through safe and well visits

Prevention activity is clearly prioritised using a risk-based approach that prioritises people most at risk from fire and other emergencies. The service has created a Community Risk Profile, to identify the people most vulnerable to fire, using a range of data. This includes information on those receiving oxygen at home, NHS data, demographic information, vulnerability data from the county council and historic incident data. The prevention team applies a scoring mechanism to help identify those most at risk from fire. Different activities are then used to target the risks that have been identified.

The service is currently using operational crews to carry out medium and low-risk visits. Each station is given targets to achieve. But the service knows it needs to consider how the operational staff can provide activities that are more focused on reducing risk. For example, stations with a higher level of road traffic collisions could prioritise road safety activity.

Staff are confident in carrying out safe and well visits, but training could be improved

Staff told us they had the right skills and confidence to make safe and well visits. These visits cover an appropriate range of hazards that can put vulnerable people at greater risk from fire and other emergencies. The service has created the One Stop Surrey leaflet to provide information to the public about where people can access further support for their health and wellbeing. It covers foodbanks; social activities; support for mental health or a hearing or visual impairment; and help reducing or stopping smoking, alcohol or drug use. It also identifies support for environmental problems such as flooding risks and weather alerts.

Operational staff told us they would like more training to help them provide prevention activities. The service is aware that it isn’t doing enough to make sure that its prevention work is of a good enough quality. But it has plans to do this now there are more people in the prevention team.

Staff understand vulnerability and have the confidence to respond to safeguarding concerns

Staff we interviewed told us about occasions when they had identified safeguarding problems. They said they felt confident and trained to act appropriately and promptly. Staff explained that members of the fire investigation team had been trained to respond to any safeguarding concerns raised by operational personnel, because members of that team were always on duty.

The service is improving how it works with others to reduce the number of fires and other risks

The service works with a wide range of organisations such as Surrey police, adult social care and the safeguarding board to prevent fires and other emergencies.

We found good evidence that it routinely referred people at greatest risk to other organisations that may be better able to meet their needs. These organisations include Age UK, foodbanks, sensory services, and drug support organisations. Arrangements are in place to receive referrals from other organisations including the NHS and adult social care. The service acts appropriately on the referrals it receives. At the time of our inspection there was no backlog of referrals from other organisations.

The service routinely exchanges information with other public sector organisations about people and groups at greatest risk. It uses the information to test its planning assumptions and target its prevention activity. For example, the service has been working with Surrey police to raise awareness among operational crews of other risks for the public, such as domestic violence and children involved with county lines. The service has been working with police colleagues on its ‘safe drive, stay alive’ road safety programme, which targets young drivers.

Members of the prevention team have been involved in the provision of the vaccine programme. While in the vaccine centres, staff have communicated fire safety messaging towards vulnerable people.

The service has built on its improved relations with the other organisations it works with since the start of the pandemic, and has started new activities to support wider public safety. For example, operational staff are supporting Surrey police in locating vulnerable missing persons.

The service acts to tackle fire-setting behaviour

The service has a range of suitable and effective interventions to target and educate people of different ages who show signs of fire-setting behaviour. This includes having a trained group of staff who work with fire-setters to change their behaviours. During the pandemic, the service introduced a risk assessment process, which allowed staff to continue working with those involved with fire setting.

The service works with other organisations including the police and local authority to share information and support a multi-agency approach.

The service should evaluate its prevention activity to identify what works and how it could be improved

We found limited evidence that the service evaluates how effective its activity is or makes sure all its communities get equal access to prevention activity that meets their needs. For example, the prevention activity conducted by operational crews appeared to be driven by quantity rather than quality. The service doesn’t routinely use the feedback it receives to improve what it does. It did recently add an online feedback tool to the website so the public can tell the service what it thinks of the safe and well visits that have been carried out – but many people don’t have access to the tool.

The service doesn’t routinely consider evaluation when doing prevention activities. For example, the ‘safe drive, stay alive’ road safety packages are well attended, but it is unclear if these are having an impact or if they are being targeted at those most at risk. The service has recently created an animated education package, but it isn’t clear how this will be evaluated. As a result, the service is missing opportunities to improve what it provides to the public.

3

How effective is the FRS at protecting the public through the regulation of fire safety?

Good

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service is good at protecting the public through fire regulation.

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service required improvement in its 2018/19 assessment.

All fire and rescue services should assess fire risks in certain buildings and, when necessary, require building owners to comply with fire safety legislation. Each service decides how many assessments it does each year. But it must have a locally determined, risk-based inspection programme for enforcing the legislation.

We are encouraged to see improvements in the service’s protection work since our last inspection. We previously identified areas for improvement in how the service resources and prioritises its risk-based inspection programme, how it resources false alarms and how it engages with businesses. While there has been clear progress, the service still has some work to do.

Areas for improvement

The service should ensure it has an effective quality assurance process, so staff carry out audits to an appropriate standard.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the service’s performance in this area.

The service has a ‘delivery of services’ strategy linked to its integrated risk management plan that supports protection activities

The service’s ‘delivery of services’ strategy is clearly linked to the risk it has identified in its IRMP, the Making Surrey Safer Plan (MSSP), which it has introduced since our last inspection. This aims to integrate prevention, protection and response.

The MSSP is subject to monitoring and review. Staff across the service are involved in this, and exchange information effectively as needed. For example, operational staff carry out business safe and well visits at commercial premises to raise awareness of how businesses can comply with fire safety regulations and let businesses know where they can get further support and guidance. The information learned on these visits is in turn used to adjust planning assumptions and to direct activity between the service’s protection, prevention and response functions. This means that resources are properly aligned to risk.

The effect of the pandemic on protection

At the start of the pandemic, the service decided to move staff with an operational background away from protection work and place them in fire stations. This was done to maintain an operational response in case there was an increase in sickness among operational staff. However, we found that the service was slow to move those staff back into protection once it was clear that sickness levels weren’t high. As a result, the service didn’t maintain its work on the risk-based inspection programme (RBIP).

Since then the service has progressed well with its protection work. It is now being more proactive and is maintaining its RBIP work, alongside the more reactive work. The protection team regularly updates its area of the website to make sure the advice to businesses is correct and relevant.

The service aligns protection activity to risk

In our last inspection we identified the RBIP as an area for improvement. The service needed to make sure it allocated enough resources and prioritised its protection work. It has just reviewed and updated its RBIP, which identifies how it will prioritise its work. The RBIP is focused on its highest-risk and medium-risk buildings. Operational crews carry out business safe and well visits at low-risk premises that wouldn’t normally be visited by the fire service. This is subject to continuing review to understand whether it changes the number of fires at commercial premises. We found that fire safety audits were recorded in line with the policy and timescales the service has set itself.

The service has carried out fire safety audits at high-rise buildings

Audits were carried out in 2019 at all three of the high-rise buildings the service identified as using cladding that is similar to the cladding installed on Grenfell Tower. Information gathered during these audits is made available to response teams and control operators, enabling them to respond more effectively in an emergency.

The service is on track to visit all the high-rise, high-risk buildings it has identified in Surrey by the beginning of November, ahead of the national target of the end of 2021.

Limited quality assurance takes place

We reviewed a range of audits carried out at different premises across the service. These included audits carried out as part of the service’s RBIP, after fires at premises where fire safety legislation applied, where enforcement action had been taken, and at high-rise, high-risk buildings.

The audits we reviewed were completed to a high standard in a consistent, systematic way, and in line with the service’s policies. Relevant information from the audits is made available to operational teams and control room operators.

The service only carries out limited quality assurance of its protection activity. Those staff working towards becoming qualified are coached and mentored by qualified inspectors. However, once they have qualified there’s no systematic process to make sure they’re carrying out audits to a consistently high standard. We were told this was because until recently there hadn’t been enough staff to do this. But with an increase in staff, the service is starting to develop processes for all inspecting officers.

The service doesn’t have good evaluation tools in place to measure its effectiveness or to make sure all sections of its communities get equal access to protection services that meet their needs. The service is aware of this and is starting to work with community groups to improve this. For example, it is liaising with owners of takeaways collectively to help them understand how they should comply with fire safety legislation.

The service carries out enforcement activities

The service consistently uses its full range of enforcement powers and, when appropriate, prosecutes those who don’t comply with fire safety regulations. It maintains 24/7 availability of staff who are appropriately trained and qualified to carry out the full range of enforcement activities.

In the year to 31 March 2020, the service issued no alteration notices, 12 enforcement notices and 3 prohibition notices, and carried out no prosecutions. It completed three prosecutions in the years from 2016/17 to 2019/20.

The service has increased its protection resources

Our 2018 inspection highlighted an area for improvement for the service to make sure it has enough resources to complete its RBIP. Our COVID-19 inspection also found that the service didn’t always allocate enough resources to the protection team to allow it to be effective.

The service has made good progress in this area. The size of the team has increased from 28 to 50 since the start of the pandemic. This helps it to provide the full range of audit and enforcement activity needed, both now and in the future.

Staff get the right training and work to appropriate accreditation. The service plans to train a small number of staff to become fire engineers.

The service works closely with other organisations to regulate fire safety

The service works closely with other enforcement agencies to regulate fire safety and routinely exchanges risk information with them. As part of the Community Protection Group, the service shares information and works closely with Trading Standards. The service also works with the Care Quality Commission to share information and carry out joint visits to care homes.

The service’s response to building consultations is timely and supports its statutory responsibility

The service responds to most building consultations on time, so consistently meets its statutory responsibility to comment on fire safety arrangements at new and altered buildings. The most recent figures, for the first half of 2020/21, show that 94 percent of the service’s building consultations were carried out within the required timescale. In the same period, 89 percent of licensing consultations were completed within the required timeframe.

The service works with businesses to promote compliance with fire safety legislation

Our inspection in 2018 identified an area of improvement for the service to work more with local businesses and large organisations to share information about how they can comply with fire safety regulations.

During the inspection we found that the service now does this. It regularly updates its website to include detailed information to help businesses comply with fire safety legislation. Operational staff carry out business safe and well visits on lower-risk premises. This allows the service to engage with many businesses that wouldn’t normally be visited by the service. This is a new activity and is subject to continuous review. The team has also engaged with 96 schools over 2 online webinars, to help them understand fire safety legislation and how to prevent fires at their premises.

The service acts to reduce unwanted fire signals

Our inspection in 2018 highlighted an area for improvement for the service that it should make sure it effectively addresses the burden of unwanted fire signals (false alarms).

The service is developing its approach to reducing unwanted fire signals. It has looked at how other fire and rescue services approach this problem to try to find good ways of doing this. As a result, control staff now conduct a call challenge process. When there is an alarm, they phone the person responsible for a building before dispatching a response. This wasn’t previously in place. However, due to the periods of lockdown during the pandemic, the service is taking a measured approach to making further changes. It is considering charging those businesses that produce excessive unwanted fire signals, but hasn’t done so yet. The figures for 2019/20 indicate that the service attended 79 percent of the unwanted fire signals it received.

Fewer unwanted calls mean that fire engines are available to respond to genuine incidents rather than responding to a false one. It also reduces the risk to the public if fewer fire engines travel at high speed on the roads.

4

How effective is the FRS at responding to fires and other emergencies?

Requires improvement

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at responding to fires and other emergencies.

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service required improvement in its 2018/19 assessment.

Fire and rescue services must be able to respond to a range of incidents such as fires, road traffic collisions and other emergencies within their areas.

Areas for improvement

  • The service should ensure it has an effective system for learning from operational incidents.
  • The service should ensure it understands what it needs to do to adopt national operational guidance, including joint and national learning, and put in place a plan to do so.
  • The service should ensure it participates in a programme of cross-border exercises, with learning from them captured and shared.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the service’s performance in this area.

The service aligns its resources with the risks identified in its integrated risk management plan

In our inspection of 2018, we identified a cause of concern where we found the service didn’t have a robust and long-term system to support its operational response model. We recommended that the service should:

  • put in place a response plan based on a thorough assessment of risk to the community;
  • make sure it has appropriate resources (people and equipment) available to respond to risk in line with its IRMP;
  • make sure it understands and actively manages the resources and capabilities available for deployment; and
  • tell the residents of Surrey what benefits its service provision and ways of working in the operational response model will give them.

In this inspection we found that the service had met those recommendations.

The service’s plan for responding to fires and other emergencies is linked to the first three risks identified in its IRMP, the Making Surrey Safer Plan (MSSP). It reviewed where its stations, fire engines and response staff were located as part of integrated risk management planning. It also reviewed the crewing models it used to make sure appropriate numbers of staff were available when needed.

The service achieves its target for the time taken to respond to life risk incidents

The service’s ‘delivery of services’ strategy is linked to the risks identified in the MSSP. Its fire engines and response roles, as well as its working patterns, are designed and located to help the service to respond flexibly to fires and other emergencies with the appropriate resources.

As we saw in our last inspection, the service uses a dynamic cover tool to maintain fire engine availability. When fire engines respond to an incident, the cover tool suggests which fire engines should be moved from their base locations to maintain cover across the area.

There are no national response standards for how services should respond to the public. But the service has set out its own response standards in the MSSP. These say that a critical incident should be attended by a fire engine within ten minutes.

The service consistently meets that standard. Home Office data shows that in the year to 31 March 2020, the service’s response time to primary fires was 9 minutes and 49 seconds. This is slower than the average for services, like Surrey, that cover both urban and rural areas. The service is aware of this and is continuing to monitor. Since implementing the MSSP, its response times are improving.

Appliance availability is improving to meet the service’s response standard

The service met its response standards in 2020/21 with an average availability of 68 percent for all its 30 fire engines. While this figure appears to be low, the service’s ‘delivery of services’ strategy, based on the MSSP risk profile, aims to have 20 fire engines available during the day and 16 fire engines available during the night. According to its own figures, the service is meeting, and often exceeding, this standard. The service is continuing to monitor availability to look for further improvements.

The service can effectively command incidents

The service has appropriately trained its incident commanders and assesses them every two years. The incident commanders must meet appropriate standards in these assessments.

In 2019/20, 98 percent of incident commanders were accredited within the timeframe. This helps the service to safely, confidently and effectively manage the whole range of incidents that it could face, from small and routine ones to complex multi-agency incidents.

As part of our inspection, we interviewed incident commanders from across the service. Those we interviewed were familiar with risk assessing, decision-making and recording information at incidents in line with national best practice, as well as the Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Principles (JESIP).

Control staff aren’t regularly involved in operational learning and debriefing

We are disappointed to find that the service’s control staff aren’t always included in the service’s command, training, exercise, debrief and quality assurance activity.

Control staff regularly test and exercise their fall-back arrangements with Merseyside Fire Control (fire control). Fire control also has its own staff training programme, which is in line with national standards.

Fire control can provide fire survival guidance to multiple callers

The control room staff we interviewed were confident they could provide fire survival guidance to many callers simultaneously. This was identified as learning for fire services after the Grenfell Tower fire. We saw that the mobilising system had prompts and checklists for staff to follow when dealing with multiple fire survival guidance calls.

Control has good systems in place to exchange real-time risk information with incident commanders, other responding partners, and other supporting fire and rescue services. The service has recently introduced new co-ordinating roles to liaise between control and incident commanders. At the time of our inspection, this was being exercised and tested. Maintaining good situational awareness helps the service to communicate effectively with the public, providing them accurate and tailored advice.

Risk information is easily accessible to staff

We sampled a range of risk information associated with several premises involving long and short-term risks, including what is in place for firefighters responding to incidents at high-risk, high-rise buildings, and what information is held by fire control.

As previously noted, the information we reviewed wasn’t always up to date. But it was detailed and could be easily accessed and understood by staff. Encouragingly, it had been completed with input from the service’s prevention, protection and response teams as appropriate. Staff we spoke to were positive about the risk information and said that they used it regularly at incidents.

Since Surrey Fire and Rescue Service and West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service merged their control room function in 2019, there has been an improvement in sharing risk information between the two services.

The service should improve the way it evaluates operational performance

During our inspection in 2018 we identified as an area for improvement that the service should make sure it has an effective system to help staff use learning and debriefing to improve operational response and incident command.

We saw evidence that the service carried out some debriefs, but this wasn’t done in a systematic or consistent way. For example, the service dealt with a major incident at Chobham Common in August 2020. We saw the debrief report for this, which included lessons to learn. However, when we spoke to operational staff, most were unaware of the report’s recommendations.

However, we recognise the service has recently started to improve its approach to learning from operational incidents. Since the start of 2021 the operational assurance team has developed a debrief process that involves trained facilitators who will obtain the information. A clear structure has been introduced to make sure learning is gathered and communicated through the organisation.

The service would benefit from a more structured cross-border exercise programme

While the service routinely operates with neighbouring fire and rescue services, there is no cross-border exercise plan. Such a plan would help the services to work together more effectively to keep the public safe. Some operational staff told us that they trained with staff at cross-border stations, but these were ad hoc arrangements and not part of a service plan. The service and its neighbours don’t routinely share information to improve their understanding of risk and operational performance.

The service needs to use national operational guidance to inform its policies

We found only limited evidence that the service contributed to and acted on learning from other fire and rescue services or other emergency service partners. When we spoke to operational and control staff, they couldn’t highlight learning from any recent high-profile national incidents.

The service is working in co-ordination with West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service and East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service to adopt national standards. But it isn’t clear when this will be achieved.

The service is good at communicating incident-related information to the public

During our inspection in 2018, the service had limited resources in its communications team. These have now increased and the service has good systems in place to inform the public about incidents and help keep them safe during and after incidents. The communications team now has enough staff to keep the public informed about continuous incidents, or wider problems, on a 24/7 basis. The team is now also able to make sure that the website is regularly updated for incidents as well as safety messages.

The communications team works well with the local resilience forum to provide consistent messages to the public.

5

How effective is the FRS at responding to major and multi-agency incidents?

Requires improvement

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at responding to major and multi‑agency incidents.

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service was good in its 2018/19 assessment.

All fire and rescue services must be able to respond effectively to multi-agency and cross-border incidents. This means working with other fire and rescue services (known as intraoperability) and emergency services (known as interoperability).

Areas for improvement

  • The service should ensure it is well prepared to form part of a multi-agency response to major incidents, and its procedures for responding are understood by all staff and well tested.
  • The service should ensure it is well prepared to form part of a multi-agency response to a terrorist incident, and its procedures for responding are understood by all staff and are well tested.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the service’s performance in this area.

The service needs to test its preparations for major and multi-agency incidents

In our inspection in 2018 we identified an area of improvement for the service. This was that it should make sure it was well prepared to form part of a multi-agency response to each community risk identified by the local resilience forum, including a marauding terrorist attack, and that its procedures for responding to terrorist-related incidents were understood by all staff and well tested. While the service has improved its approach to planning, it isn’t testing its plans through regular exercises.

The service has effectively anticipated and considered the reasonably foreseeable risks and threats it may face. These are listed in both local and national risk registers as part of its integrated risk management planning. For example, the service has developed plans to deal with large-scale flooding and wildfires.

It is also familiar with the significant risks that could be faced by neighbouring fire and rescue services that it might reasonably be asked to respond to in an emergency. These include incidents on the River Thames and the motorway network. Firefighters have access to risk information from neighbouring services. This has improved since the introduction of the joint control room with West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service.

We reviewed the arrangements the service had in place to respond to different major incidents, including incidents relating to high-rise buildings, wide-area flooding and a marauding terrorist attack. We saw during the COVID-19 inspection that the service dealt with a major wildfire incident at Chobham Common while supporting the local resilience forum’s response to the pandemic. The service has good arrangements in place that are well understood by staff, who can learn about them through e-learning training packages.

However, we found that the service didn’t routinely test these plans and its staff’s understanding of them through regular exercises. We saw some limited evidence that the service carried out exercises with the local resilience forum, but no evidence that the service maintained an exercise programme.

The service needs to be sure that its staff are prepared to respond safely and effectively to a terrorist incident. And it needs to make sure the learning from exercises feeds through into improvements to its plans.

The service needs to be sure that it works well with other fire and rescue services

While the service supports other fire and rescue services in responding to emergency incidents, it needs to make sure that it is working effectively with them. Surrey is bordered by seven different services. It needs to be able to work seamlessly with these services to form part of a multi-agency response. Since the introduction of its joint control with West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, the two services operate a process of borderless mobilising. Control staff will send whichever fire engine can get to the incident quickest. The same approach will be applied when East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service joins the control arrangements.

The service has successfully deployed to other service areas and has used national assets in its own service area. During the Chobham Common incident in August 2020, national resources were deployed to Surrey for up to a week to help extinguish the fire. Learning was captured from this using a debrief process.

However, we saw no evidence that working together was evaluated on a day-to-day basis, nor that lessons were learned and shared between the neighbouring fire and rescue services.

Staff understand and apply JESIP

The incident commanders we interviewed had been trained in and were familiar with the Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Principles (JESIP).

The service was able to provide us with strong evidence that it consistently followed these principles. All staff use online training packages on JESIP. All incident commanders we spoke to have a good understanding of the JESIP principles.

The service is an active member of the Surrey Resilience Forum and its staff work routinely with other emergency services

The service has good arrangements in place to respond to emergencies with the other organisations that make up the Surrey Resilience Forum. These arrangements include working with other organisations to warn and inform the public of continuous incidents. The organisations worked well together during the COVID-19 pandemic to produce consistent messages for the public.

The service is a valued partner and the chief fire officer chairs the Surrey Resilience Forum. The service takes part in regular training events with other members of the Surrey Resilience Forum and uses what it learns to develop planning assumptions about responding to major and multi-agency incidents. The training events stopped during the pandemic, but there are plans to re-start them as soon as possible. We saw during our COVID-19 inspection that the service had enhanced its reputation as an effective partner since the start of the pandemic. It has co-ordinated and led several joint working groups, including PPE management and mortuary management.

The service needs to share national learning

The service has limited awareness of joint operational learning updates from other fire services and national operational learning from other blue light partners. As a result, the service hasn’t done enough to improve its services for the public in line with the recognised best ways of doing things.

Until 2020 the service hadn’t contributed to national operational learning or joint operational learning. However, it has now started to do so and submitted five case studies in 2020.

We appreciate that the service has dealt with challenging industrial relations, which will have affected staff engagement and productivity.